Update: The human rights activists were released at 5pm Kathmandu time
Responding to the detention of more than a dozen activists – including members and staff of Amnesty International Nepal – Amnesty International’s South Asia Director, Biraj Patnaik, said:
“The Nepal authorities must immediately and unconditionally release our staff and supporters and other activists who have been detained solely for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
“These activists have every right to protest against the ruling Communist Party of Nepal’s decision to appoint Agni Sapkota, a person accused of criminal responsibility for crimes during the country’s decade-long internal conflict, as Speaker of the Federal Parliament. Agni Sapkota must face an independent and effective investigation, as directed by Nepal’s Supreme Court.
“Peaceful protest is not a crime. Instead of detaining our staff and supporters, the authorities would do better to expend their energies investigating people accused of serious crimes and bringing them to justice through fair trials.”
The detained activists include Director of Amnesty International Nepal, Nirajan Thapaliya, and two former chairs, Charan Parsai and Rajan Kuikel.
On 25 January, Amnesty International, jointly with The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), Human Rights Watch and TRIAL International issued a joint statement saying recent steps taken by the government are a serious setback to Nepal’s transitional justice process.
The four organizations also urged the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) to reconsider their nomination of Sapkota as speaker of the federal parliament until there is a thorough and independent investigation.
Agni Sapkota was nominated by the NCP earlier this month as speaker of the lower house. Sapkota, a member of parliament and the party standing committee, is one of six persons under investigation by the Nepal police for their alleged involvement in the April 2005 abduction and killing of Arjun Lama, a resident of Kavre District. In March 2008, the Supreme Court directed the police to register a case against Sapkota for abducting and killing Lama and to carry out a full investigation in accordance with Nepali law. The police did not comply.